Surfing the Quantum Foam

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Empty space—that is, space that contains nothing—no energy, no charge, no matter, nothing—is filled with a writhing, active population of virtual particles that physicists call “the quantum foam,” with bubbles appearing and popping in wild abandon. -
- Don Lincoln, Ph.D., Particle physics researcher at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
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Of course he laughed like a maniac: Frederick had created the ISM -- the Incredible Shrinking Machine, and it worked! And of course he couldn't share his invention with anyone, at least not yet. Not until he had his fun.

It was conceptually simple. It started as three 3-D electron microscopes, hooked up in series, so that the output of each one fed the input of the next. He looked at the 3-D screen of the third scope, and saw the individual atoms of the aluminum square that was at the first scope's focus.

Then Frederick reversed the power connections, added a virtual reality cubicle and, remote control in hand, got in. And WHOOSH! There he was, playing among the atoms of aluminum! No-one was more amazed than Frederick, but he was always known as "that smart-ass kid" and after he got his Ph.D. from M.I.T. at age 14, his ego grew to the size of Massachusetts. And now as he reached toward the nearby aluminum electrons, his ego grew to be the size of the Solar System.

There's nothing more disgusting than a know-it-all who knows it all. He was intensely disliked by the half-dozen other high-IQ physicists who worked with him at the newly-formed corporation, SmartestResearch, LLC. However, all six knew that
Frederick was truly a genius, the one necessary cog in their corporate wheel. But the ISM, the Incredible Shrinking Machine, was Frederick's exclusively, if temporarily, and it resided in his basement's personal research lab.

And so Frederick laughed and laughed; another success! He looked around, and found himself between well-separated aluminum atoms, each one with just over a dozen fuzzy electrons zipping around. And all around were thousands of flashes of...something. He was weightless, and with a few tentative movements, found that he could glide forward by bending at the waist. And so he began to glide, going faster and faster, passing atoms all around, bouncing off some of the mysterious flashes. He was surfing the randomly appearing electron-photon pairs! He laughed and laughed.

And then up ahead were a couple of oxygen atoms sharing electrons, directly in Frederick's path; BOOM! Frederick went flying, (metaphorically) head over heels, feeling the sting of getting too close to those oxygen electrons. And before he could react, four electron-photon pairs randomly appeared inside Frederick's head, and he briefly realized that this was a more dangerous mission than he had expected.

Two of Frederick's corporate partners noticed that he hadn't shown up for work and wasn't available by ephone. They went to his house, waited for response to their knocking and bell-ringing, and finally called the police, who let them into the house. The three of them went room to room; no Frederick. Finally, they noticed light streaming around the cracks in the basement door, opened it and went downstairs. It was bright.

The police Sergeant pulled out her high-voltage zapper, and pulled open the lab door. In the middle of the room was the ISM (Incredible Shrinking Machine). And on the floor of the virtual reality cubicle, the remote still in his hand, was Frederick's body. He was almost dead.

The power to the ISM was still on, and flicking around it was a froth of electron-photon pairs, appearing and disappearing. Like angry bees, they buzzed and flickered, now visible, flowing out of the ISM, and slowly filling the lab.

One of Frederick's corporate partners looked down at Frederick on the floor, and in shock, he mumbled, "He-- his mouth - it's foaming!"

The other partner, shocked, said, "It's foaming all over!" The foaming continued, beginning to flood the lab, reaching and traveling up the basement stairs....

About the Author: 
Charles Dittell, retired, has been a Clinical Psychology Specialist, Adult Education Coordinator, Counselor and Consultant as well as an I.T. Trainer for a Florida county government. He plays jazz piano, and writes stories such as this one.